Cold Cuts – Low Carb Lunch & More

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Ah, August in southern Indiana. Known for temperatures that soar past ninety, coupled with humidity typical of an industrial laundry. It’s enough to make even a girl who loves to cook flee her stove. In weather like this, cold cuts gain new appeal.

Old cookbooks use the term “cold cuts” when referring to leftover turkey, ham, or roast beef, sliced and served cold. No doubt this was the origin of the idea. Then came the corner delicatessen, where someone else did the roasting, and they were equipped to slice the meat more uniformly than the home cook. Now we have hermetically sealed packages of pre-sliced cold cuts, all slices uncannily alike, hanging from hooks in the grocery store cooler.

I prefer cold cuts cut from a chunk of meat in identifiable form: Slices of real turkey breast, or genuine ham, or true roast beef, rather than stuff that’s been ground up and pressed together in blocks. The “pre-formed” stuff allows for too many questionable additives. In particular, it’s common for processors to sneak in sugar or corn syrup.

Cold cuts have added sodium. This doesn’t concern me; there’s little reason to believe sodium restriction is valuable for more than a small fraction of the population (more on this in a future column.) However, many also contain nitrates, which can form carcinogenic nitrosamines in your gut. Since vitamin C can prevent nitrosamine formation, it’s good to eat some vitamin C-rich food with your cold cuts – have a tomato or some strawberries, why don’t you?

Still, cold cuts provide convenient protein that doesn’t heat up the house. Let’s see how nutritious some popular cold cuts are, keeping in mind that these numbers may vary a bit from brand to brand:

  • Boiled ham – One ounce of boiled ham has 31 calories and 0.35 grams of carbohydrate. You’ll get 5 grams of protein. You’ll also get some B vitamins, especially thiamin, and a little zinc.
  • Chopped ham, pressed into a loaf – One ounce has 50 calories and 1.02 grams of carbohydrate. See what I mean about additives in the ground up stuff?
  • Turkey breast – One ounce comes in at 24 teeny calories, but has 1.24 grams of carbohydrate. 4.2 grams protein, and few vitamins. Smoked turkey is nutritionally similar, though it has only 0.46 grams carbohydrate.
  • Roast beef – 50 calories per ounce, with 2 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein. You’ll get 7% each of your niacin, B12, zinc, and – believe it or not – vitamin C. Also 11% of your B12.
  • Bologna – This kid’s favorite has 90 calories per ounce, with 1 gram carbohydrate. It’s a protein lightweight, with only 3 grams. Just a smattering of B vitamins and zinc.
  • Olive loaf – Bologna with olives in it. You’ll get 74 calories per ounce, and 1.93 grams of carbohydrate. Similar vitamin content to bologna, with the addition of those healthful olive fats. Even less protein than bologna, however – just 2.77 grams. Guess some of it’s displaced by the olives.
  • Salami – One ounce of salami has 74 calories, with one gram of carbohydrate and 4 grams of protein.

How are you going to eat those cold cuts? You can make UnSandwiches, if you like – just spread mayo and mustard between a slice of ham and a slice of cheese, say, and stuff ‘em in your face. Low carb wraps are good; many of my local grocery stores carry low carb tortillas, and some also carry Flat Out flat bread, which has some low carb varieties. Lettuce wraps are great, too, especially with turkey, tomato, and bacon – again, spread some mayo on a lettuce leaf, wrap it around a slice of turkey, a slice of cooked bacon, and a wedge of tomato, and eat.

And don’t forget salads. With bagged greens and bottled dressing, cold cuts can be turned into an array of main dish salads that are as easy as they are cool and tempting. That lettuce, turkey, bacon and tomato would make a great Turkey Club Salad, for instance, and all of the cold cuts of a traditional Italian hero sandwich, plus tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and Italian vinaigrette, makes a super salad.

Here’s a salad that turns deli roast beef into a company dinner.

Easy and Elegant Beef and Asparagus Salad

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, light or regular
  • 1/3 cup minced green bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup minced red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup minced yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Splenda or a teeny pinch stevia/FOS blend
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 3 scallions minced fine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 pound deli roast beef, sliced fairly thick
  • 3 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 medium cucumber, sliced
  • lettuce leaves to line plates

Combine first 10 ingredients, mixing well. Refrigerate. This is your dressing.

Snap the ends off your asparagus where they want to break naturally. Arrange them in a microwaveable casserole with a lid, or in a glass pie plate. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, cover (use plastic wrap or a dinner plate to cover a pie plate,) and microwave on “high” for 5 minutes, or until just tender. Uncover immediately, to stop cooking. Drain and chill.

When dinner rolls around, arrange a lettuce leaf or two — red leaf looks nice — on each of 4 plates. Now artfully arrange the asparagus, sliced tomatoes, and cucumber on top of the lettuce. Fold or roll your deli roast beef prettily, and arrange on top of that. Top with the dressing you made earlier, and serve.

4 servings, each with: 470 Calories; 30g Fat; 35g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber;

(Recipe reprinted by permission from The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook by Dana Carpender, 2006 Fair Winds Press, though with a couple of edits)

© 2009 by Dana Carpender. Used by kind permission of the author (who may be full of baloney). What do you think? Please send Dana your comments to Dana Carpender.

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